How to Become a Thought Leader
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, there are few things that companies prize more than thought leadership. Every industry has individuals whose ideas drive innovation, and every successful company wants to be associated with these leaders. Their ideas and skills are valued, and they’re often able to command significantly higher salaries than others with similar levels of experience. But how do you become a thought leader in your industry? And more importantly, how do you leverage that leadership?
What Is a Thought Leader?
Thought leadership is a different kind of quality and not something that can simply be claimed. In fact, thought leaders need to be recognised as such by others. In any given industry, thought leaders are individuals whose ideas are respected for the value they can bring to any company wise enough to implement them. They’re innovative and creative and often serve as the driving force behind industry-wide changes.
Thought leaders typically have credentials gained from education, extensive work experience, or a combination of both. Their knowledge provides them with insight which they use to identify areas of potential growth and innovation that can help shape the future of companies. They are the experts that people look to when change is needed because they have proven the value of their expertise over many years.
How Can You Become a Thought Leader?
Becoming a thought leader takes time and effort. If you want to have credibility in your industry and attain that “expert” status that you seek, then you need to be prepared to build the necessary foundation for that achievement. There are several things that you should do to accomplish this goal:
Build and Guard Your Personal Brand
Your brand will be critical to ensuring that people recognise your thought leadership once you’ve established it over time. They will be able to associate you with your ideas which will lend even greater credibility to your message. Cultivate your brand through social media and other avenues, and protect it.
Learn Everything You Can About Your Industry
Your value will be based more on your experience and proven expertise than any educational credentials you might obtain. This means learning everything there is to know about your industry. The knowledge and insight you acquire will allow you to prove your worth to others.
Develop a Strong Network
Having a network of associates to help spread the word about your capabilities will prove to be an invaluable asset going forward. Start building that network by connecting with people in your close circle of business peers first, and then expand to include others in your industry.
Get Your Message Out
You cannot become a thought leader if no one knows about it. Be your own best advocate, and deliver your message through social media, articles, and other means of communication. For instance, starting a blog allows you to speak directly to your intended audience where you can express your thoughts and ideas in an unfiltered way. But don’t forget to attach emotion to your insights. We like to think that we’re all purely rational beings, but it’s often an emotional pull that inspires us to truly think about change.
Leverage the Power of Influencers
Influencers can be invaluable for directing people to your message. Find blog writers in your niche and reach out to them. They often have a network of devoted followers that they can redirect to other content of interest if it benefits them in some way. If you can get one or two successful influencers to push their fans to your content, your reputation will grow by leaps and bounds.
Be Willing to Be Disruptive
If you’re afraid to be disruptive, then forget about being a thought leader. Thought leaders innovate and change everything around them. You cannot achieve that goal without disrupting the status quo. You should look for ideas and strategies that push the boundaries because that disruption can create positive change that drives your industry and the companies in it toward greater success.
What Can You Do to Leverage that Leadership?
Thought leadership is a powerful asset and one that can be leveraged to great effect. But how can you use it to benefit yourself and others in such a way that provides real value?
- Find areas where innovation is needed. Almost every industry has at least one technological or systemic change that it’s currently neglecting.
- Identify differentiation strategies that can create competitive advantages for your company or your clients.
- Continue to develop your expertise and networking reach. If you take a breath, there will always be someone else waiting to step up and take your leadership role.
- Never pull back from being a disruptive influence. Sure, you need to pick your battles, but change doesn’t occur by following the status quo. The minute you do, the marketplace will decide that you’ve lost your edge.
There are definite advantages to being a thought leader, but it’s a journey that often takes years and one that requires relentless determination. Once you achieve that leadership status, however, you’ll find that your insights and value proposition are almost worth their weight in gold. More importantly, you’ll have your industry’s attention and an opportunity to make positive real-world changes.